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Thursday, October 2, 2014

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Bring back our boys

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Eight years ago this month, Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit was captured by
Hamas. During the five-plus years that followed, Schalit’s redemption was
the preoccupation of both the State of Israel, and Diapora Judaism. When he
returned Oct. 18, 2011, some argued the price of his freedom – 1,027 Palestinian
prisoners in exchange – was too high. But everyone was glad he was home.
The memory of Schalit’s seizure on a June morning in 2006 is especially poignant
in the wake of the kidnapping last Thursday of three Israeli teenagers – Gilad
Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, the same age Schalit
was when he was captured. There is no more instructive example of how Israel
and worldwide Jewry will respond to this sort of terrorist act than the massive
military, diplomatic and grassroots campaign to repatriate Schalit. Hopefully,
the result will be the same. Ideally, it will come more quickly.

At press time Monday, Shaar, Frenkel and Yifrach, students at a yeshiva high
school in Gush Etzion, were still missing. They were last seen late Thursday night
near Hebron, at a hitchhiking spot. It remains unclear whether the boys were
forcibly taken or tricked into accepting a ride with terrorists in disguise.
There appears to have been some confusion and lack of communication in
the hours that followed the kidnapping. Opinions vary as to whether that gave
the abductors enough time to smuggle the teens into Gaza. More likely, they are
being held in the West Bank.

A massive manhunt has been underway since Friday night. On Saturday, an
unnamed senior military official indicated to Israel’s Channel 10 that security
and intelligence forces had made some headway in the investigation, but
warned, “This isn’t going to be short.”

Tens of thousands have gathered at the Kotel to pray for the release of the three
students. Meanwhile, public and private prayer groups are being initiated across
the Jewish world, and the hashtag #BringBackOurBoys is gaining steam on social
media.

As the search continues, I offer this short prayer: Please, God, bring these three
boys home, safe and sound, as quickly as possible. And in the meantime, watch
over them and their loved ones.

* * *

June 20 marks the beginning of Pride Week (Israel held its own gay pride parade
on June 13). This year, Toronto is hosting WorldPride, a distinction befitting
Canada’s progressive approach to the LGBTQ community. And yet, some LGBTQ
Jews continue to struggle to establish their place in the Canadian Jewish community.
The good news, as reporter Jodie Shupac explains in this week’s cover story, is
“there appears to be a general shift towards emphasizing practical inclusion of
LGBTQ congregants above rigid adherence to biblical text,” a development that
extends across Judaism, even to modern Orthodoxy. But the fear of isolation
remains. As Rabbi Steven Greenberg writes, also in this week’s CJN, “Right now,
LGBTQ teenagers in your community are wondering whether there will be a
place for them.”

The question remains: Can complete integration ever be achieved? Taken
together, Shupac and Greenberg illustrate the great strides Judaism has made
toward embracing the LGBTQ community, and the roadblocks that still lie
ahead.  — YONI

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